Audit finds no financial irregularities at Howard Domestic Violence Center

But report faults background check before hiring of former director

May 10, 2011|By Larry Carson, The Baltimore Sun

A three-page preliminary audit report on Howard County's Domestic Violence Center gave the nonprofit a clean bill of fiscal health but criticized the organization's former board for its efforts at a background check before hiring the former director.

"We have not found any evidence to indicate any irregularities," County Auditor Haskell Arnold said, though the agency will need to carefully monitor its funds to get through the year. Thanks to a $275,000 surplus, the agency is in the black, Arnold said.

"We do not believe there is an immediate cause for concern," he said, adding that a final report will be completed soon.

He did criticize the group's former board, however for what he termed a "perfunctory criminal background check" that cost $7, before hiring Annie Burton-Byrd as director Jan. 28. Burton-Byrd, it later developed, was on a federal list barring her for one year from participating in programs that receive federal funds. The former director has denied any wrongdoing.

Members of that board resigned in March. Last month, a new panel recruited by County Executive Ken Ulman hired as interim director Inga James, a consultant who helped write a scathing report last year on the center's operations for the trade group Maryland Nonprofits.

Lois Mikkila, the county's director of citizens services, told the County Council during a budget work session Tuesday that her agency is meeting monthly with Domestic Violence Center officials and is doling out county grant funds to the group monthly instead of quarterly.

"We're monitoring the situation there very closely," she said. "They're going to come out much stronger than they were before."

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